The illness of its president sends Algeria back to square one

The last press release on the evolution of the state of health of the Algerian president, Abdelmajid Tebboune, invisible in public since October 15, was reassuring. However, it was not enough to quench the concern.

“When it is announced that the anti-Covid protocol prescribed for him has ended, and that the president is still not visible, on the pretext that he is the subject of additional examinations, it suggests that the complications may have left irreversible damage ”, analyzes Dr. Neila Bourani.

→ EXPLANATION. In Algeria, the regime in full regression

The president, hospitalized in Germany since October 28, will be 75 years old on November 17. And his absence continues to fuel the debates in Algeria. Several sources have leaked information about “Neurological lesions” making it impossible to resume his duties within a foreseeable period.

This table would strongly resemble the one which followed the stroke of President Bouteflika on April 27, 2013. Strongly diminished, the latter continued to lead the country by proxy for the benefit of his brother Saïd, ultimately leading the Algerians to rise up peacefully against the hypothesis of a fifth term.

Paralyzing political isolation

The consequences of this new vacancy at the El Mouradia palace seem infinitely more serious this time. The legitimacy of institutions is at its lowest after the boycott of the constitutional referendum – only 23% of voters – on 1is November. The politically isolated Djerad government appears unanswered in the face of a devastating second wave of Covid-19: independent medical sources have identified more than 15,000 cases of contamination.

To top it off, the economy is collapsing at a rapid pace. “The recession is stronger than elsewhere, Algeria having chained the hirak (uprising) then the pandemic, laments Ramdane Amrane, industry consultant. But no serious stimulus measure is planned in the finance law for 2021, for lack of strong arbitrations ”.

The paralysis of the presidential function and the absence of leadership at the head of the army even lead some to think that the Polisario, in Western Sahara, could dispense with a green light from Algiers – its main support – to resume the armed struggle against Morocco and finally obtain a referendum of self-determination decided by the UN.

Conversely, other sources fear that “The historic impasse of the military regime pushes it to seize a war between the Polisario and Morocco as a means to recreate the sacred union around it”.

The presidential vacancy also prevents the promulgation of the new Constitution. The Algerians are wondering suddenly by what mechanism the prevention of Abdelmadjid Tebboune will be declared, if his inability to continue his mission becomes clearer.

Under the current Constitution and its article 102, the initiative lies with the Constitutional Council: but due to lack of autonomy, it never activated it during the years of Bouteflika’s absence. “The Constitution gives all the powers to the president appointed by the army, but when he is absent, it is difficult to act without him”, explains Master Daghbar, constitutional lawyer. The prelude to a possible institutional vacuum.

The “bouteflikien” scenario excluded

“The Algerians will not accept a comedy of the absent president who directs without being visible”, already warns the Pact of the democratic alternative, a pole of the opposition favorable to a democratic transition. The staff of the Algerian army, the real holder of power, seems to rule out this risky scenario of an absence of several months. “After Tebboune is a project open to the Ministry of Defense”, say sources which overlap more and more in Algiers.

→ PORTRAIT. Abdelmadjid Tebboune, a president in the hands of the army

The organization of a presidential election, however, comes up against the rejection of the hirak, which continues to require beforehand “A dialogue for a democratic transition”. Is a new political roadmap for openness possible in Algeria? Nothing seriously indicates it. Thus, responsibility for spectacular forest fires this week has been bluntly attributed this week to Hirak militants. Their fault: to have heckled the Prime Minister visiting the scene.

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A president elected less than a year ago

February 16, 2019: start of hirak (uprising) in opposition to a fifth term of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika

11 mars : Abdelaziz Bouteflika gives up running for a fifth term and announces the postponement of the presidential election scheduled for April 18

September: after several postponements, the ballot is set by the army for December 12, 2019. The five candidates selected in November 2019 are those of personalities of the regime.

December 23: death of General Ahmed Gaïd Salah, chief of staff of the armed forces and omnipresent deputy minister of national defense

December 12: Abdelmadjid Tebboune is elected by 58.1% of the votes, with a record abstention (60.1% of those registered)

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